SIDNEY — Kayla L. Smith, 12, of Sidney, has been invited to participate in the Junior National Young Leaders Conference in Washington, D.C., next summer.
She believes she is the only Sidney City Schools student to be so recognized.
Her parents, Crystal L. and Kenneth G. Smith, are as proud as they can be.
“We’re very honored parents to have such a well-rounded, well-behaved child,” Kenneth said recently as he shared a notebook filled with Kayla’s straight-A grade cards, certificates of merit and spelling bee and geography bee awards.
The family now must raise funds to cover the conference program fees and their residency for a week in the nation’s capital. Kenneth estimates that a total of $4,000 is needed, the first payment of which — about $500 — is due Nov. 13. They plan to have fundraising events during the next several months in hopes of raising enough money to make the payments as they are due.
Because Crystal is disabled and Kenneth may be declared so following several recent health problems, they are concerned that they may not be able to allow Kayla to take advantage of her nomination due to lack of funds.
People can donate online at GoFundMe.com/KaylaLSmith.
“The Junior National Young Leaders Conference (JrNYLC), an Envision program, is for mature middle school students who demonstrate leadership potential, who are motivated to learn and excel, and who desire the critical leadership skills needed for success in middle school, high school and beyond,” according to the Envision website.
“Students attending JrNYLC develop and sharpen the essential leadership skills needed for academic and career success by examining the leaders of the past, and are empowered to become leaders themselves. The program centers on leadership through a practical, everyday lens, incorporating a detailed examination of six leadership traits and focusing on leaders in American history and social advocacy.”
Participants visit historic and cultural sites, hear from famous adult leaders, and complete hands-on activities.
Kayla is looking forward to seeing Washington and “learning how to be a leader,” she said. She has made a good start on that already.
“Every teacher has always written what a role model she is for her classmates,” Kenneth said. “Every teacher recognizes her ability to help others.”
A sixth-grader at Sidney Middle School, Kayla was nominated for the conference by her fifth-grade teacher, Shelby Rolland, who is no longer teaching in Sidney and could not be reached for comment. However, proud father that he is, Kenneth shared a note Kayla received from Rolland at the end of the school year.
“You are such a great role model and leader for your class,” Rolland wrote. “I love your work ethic and I appreciate how much you love to learn! … I can’t wait to see what you accomplish in your future.”
“I like what she said,” noted Crystal.
Kayla’s favorite past-time is reading, but when she doesn’t have her nose in a book, she enjoys playing volleyball, painting the fingernails of her two sisters and her friends, and designing dresses on a doodle pad.